When I arrived back in Rishikesh I did not have the impression that I had been away for months; it seemed to me that I just came back from a day trip. It was early in the morning and the only place that already was open was Kashi’s Chai Shop, where Baba and I met.
The familiar smell of sweet chai coming from the ever bubbling teapot delighted my senses again. The best chai in all Ramjhula! The chai stall is a self-built plastic tent that stands in a corner next to the shore of the Ganges. Most of the local sadhus spend some time of the day there to have their tea or eat the wonderful thalis cooked by the family.
Cheap and best!
I always wonder how many chapatis the Mataji has been baking there on the fire pit in all of her life. It is also the best place to learn about the latest Rishikesh news. Everything that happens will be discussed at Kashi’s chai shop first. The news I got were not too pleasant; peak season was about to start, so the police was all over the town to provide “safety” for the tourists. No good news for us, because this meant probably a lot of trouble coming up for a mixed couple like us.
I moved into our base-camp in Last Chance Café. Vijay, the manager, was very happy to see me again but told me straight away that there was no way that Baba could spend even one minute in my room. In most parts of India, guesthouses and hotels will only allow an indian-western couple to share a room if they are married.
At Last Chance something had happened that changed the freedom we enjoyed there before:
Dadaji is an old German Hippie who always stays in Last Chance whenever he comes to Rishikesh. He had trouble with a police officer, who followed him constantly and accused him of smoking charas in big quantities. The officer tried hard to find something on him to earn some baksheesh. Dadaji eventually got tired of that game and told the police-wallah to get stuffed. The officer didn’t like that at all and showed up now everyday in the guesthouse in search for any kind of possible revenge.
It didn’t take long for him to make life impossible for us, too. He was in charge of the area and wouldn’t leave us in peace even for one day. We couldn’t even sit together in an open space without that guy showing up to make some trouble. Eventually he demanded weekly baksheesh together with a bottle of whiskey; only then he would leave us alone and not tell any of his superiors that Baba and me were spending our time together. No way that we would get engaged in that stupid game!
Sometimes life seems absolutely surreal in this country!
Then one day, Vijay caught us while Baba was sneaking out of the room. There was a big discussion, both sides understood each other’s problem, but there was no real solution to it. Other backpackers had moved into the guesthouse; there was Derek, our good friend from Belgium, a young couple from France, an Israeli, a Canadian guy and a girl from the US. Like every evening we would all sit together in the Bamboo-hut-restaurant for dinner. Our dilemma was the main topic of the evening, when Vijay suddenly came up with a fantastic idea:
“Why do you guys not just get married?”
Everyone but me was pretty enthusiastic about that suggestion.
“Are you crazy? This is not Las Vegas! Where I’m from, people don’t get married just like that”
“You love each other and if you get married, you will be free and won’t have any kind of trouble anymore; so why not? I have a friend, who is a lawyer; if you want, I’ll help you to arrange everything. Think about it!”
Baba didn’t say anything; he just sat there and smiled.
For some time, nobody mentioned the word wedding anymore. Then, one evening Baba and I were having a picnic on the rooftop of the egg-building in the Beatles Ashram while we were silently watching the sunset. This was one of the few places where we still felt free. We felt drained from all the police issues and treated like a couple of criminal suspects. We weren’t commiting any crimes; the only thing we wanted, was to be together.
“Maybe marriage good idea”
said Baba suddenly and added
“No problem, after marriage, nothing changing”
“Maybe…yeah, why not…”
This is how we decided to get married for the sake of freedom; with one condition:
Both of us would be free to return to our old lives at any time. Who knows? Maybe one day Baba would choose to go back to his original Baba-life; and maybe I would find out that this kind of living was a touch too crazy for me.
As the famous Indian saying goes:
SABKUCH MILEGA – EVERYTHING POSSIBLE